Hiking in YuanQu, Shanxi, China.
This post retells my experience hiking in YuanQu. I am currently teaching English in a small town in the North of China called YuanQu. YuanQu is located in the province of Shanxi.
By Chinese standards, YuanQu i considered a pretty small town, but to me it still feels very busy.
Towns may be considered small in China, but due to the countries immense population, even though the place may be small in area, it is still awfully busy.
Regardless of the population, there’s not much to do here. Luckily for me it is surrounded by mountains.
Since hiking/exploring is one of my favorite past-times, whenever I need a break from writing I just go hiking in YuanQu.
Hiking In Yuanqu, Shanxi. Option 1. Easy.
If you want to go hiking in YuanQu, Shanxi, I suggest doing the small hill in close to town. It is easily accessible, not crowded, and has a decent view.
Hiking In Yuanqu, Shanxi. Option 2. Not So Easy.
Beyond the first hill, there are more hills. I didn’t climb them personally but you can see a pathway up them and people tell me that they are easily accessible. This is a good option for hiking in Yuanqu if you wan’t a bit more of a challenge than Option 1.
Hiking In Yuanqu, Shanxi. Option 3. Not as Easy as it Looks.
Today I went to climb the mountain that I can see from my kitchen window (featured picture is the view from my kitchen window). My original plan for hiking in YuanQu was to climb one in every direction, but after today I am going to scrap that plan, because today I nearly died!
Basically I walked out of my place after lunch (1330-ish) and headed North. Getting to the base of mountains that you can see from urban places is always an adventure, but I tried my best not to trespass. I crossed some cool terrain and even stumbled upon a cemetery. It actually was not that difficult to get to the base. It took me about 30 minutes.
I decided to just go for the big one cause it was a lot closer than I thought it would be. The start was fine, but then I hit some thicker terrain which slowed me down a lot.
After the initial terrain I start to hit prickle bushes. Luckily I was wearing jeans and jacket. There were so many prickle bushes and I got smashed by them so much that I didn’t even care about the smaller ones. The bigger ones in groups were some times enough to make me look for alternate routes.
When I finally made it to the top I was pretty happy with my efforts, but I quickly discovered that I had walked up the wrong mountain! It was 1500 (I had been hiking in YuanQu for about 5 hours now), but the right mountain was right in front of me so I figured that I’d be up it by 1530. Also, the terrain looked much nicer.
I was wrong about the terrain. I got hammered by prickle bushes (again). At one stage I actually consider giving up. I got to a point where I’m just like f*ck it, and *powered through, but there came a point where I literally could not move any further so I had to back-track to find an alternative route. I scrambled along rocks and crossed icy sections. It was pretty cool but my feet were **freezing.
*The best way to get through tough terrain is to just keep going. Use the momentum.
**Merrel Barefoots are great shoes but do not block out water. I was prepared though and had my waterproof socks in my day pack.
After another hour of hiking in YuanQu I finally I made it to the top. I quickly took some photos, had some food and water, changed my socks, and took it all in for 5 minutes or so. I did not want to hang around too long though, because in my head I was thinking that if the sun falls and I am out here I would probably freeze to death, literally.
I remember reading that there is no such thing as mountain rescue where I am. It wouldn’t matter anyway cause my phone is was of service, I do not know the emergency number, and even if I did I couldn’t speak Chinese to tell them where I am anyway.
I decided to take the ridge line back to avoid prickle bushes. It was a good idea. I also found a good stick to whack the bushes away with. Eventually I was forced to go off the ridge line. The sun started to drop, but I had my survival kit so I was not worried, even though I did not have a survival blanket or poncho in it, so wouldn’t have had any shelter.
I finally make it out, at around 1730, but on the wrong side of a guarded fence. I spotted the guard from the ridge but decided that evasion probably wasn’t the best idea so I came out in plain sight. I threw the stick away and he said something in Chinese. I followed him and made gestures of climbing the mountain. I think he understood that I was just hiking in YuanQu and not trying to break into his compound. He talked to his mate in the guard house and I showed them the characters in my notebook of the School name that I was teaching in. He pointed me in the right direction.
*I have this thing where everywhere I go I could be a local, i.e., I look like I could be a local. It’s good because I do not stick out, but it is bad because other locals think I can speak their language, people do not believe that I am foreign so I do not get the benefit of doubt etc.
I basically took the same route home that I came in on and the sun dropped as I was walking. My hiking in YuanQu adventure ends and I am home sweet home around 1830.
My legs are shredded and my jeans are the same. My jacket now has about 100 pin sized holes. I hope it still keeps the rain out.
Today was the worst hiking experience I have ever had. I actually recall saying things like..
“why is this mountain so protected?”
“why is nature against me today?”.
But I still think it was worth it. I would not do it again mind you, and I wont be trying to climb any more around here cause I reckon the terrain will be the same, but maybe trekking to the bases is good enough for some exploring. Amazing views though. I am glad i did it. I will definitely sleep well tonight and will always remember my time hiking in YuanQu, Shanxi, China.
Not as Easy as it Looks… Take 2
I don’t really mind if I die “young”, but if that is the case then I would prefer it to be heroically, like while saving a deaf kid from drowning, as opposed to by falling off a mountain which I was climbing for fun whist hiking in YuanQu… which is what nearly happened today.
I originally wanted go to Pingyao (an ancient city) today but my passport is still being processed for my work visa (that’s right folks, I’ve been working in China since November without a work visa… it seems to be the norm) and after last weeks efforts in Xian I wasn’t keen to be stuck without accommodation again, so instead I decided to go hiking in YuanQu, despite previous experiences.
The mountains look greener now so I thought that meant there would not be any prickle bushes. Boy was I wrong.
The start of the journey was pretty easy going. I learnt from last time and took the ridge line up. I’m pretty sure the ridge was lined with graves. Pretty impressed actually. Not only did they have to climb up there, but they would of had to carry a body, and then dig the grave. Soon enough I got into the thick of it. Weather was much warmer than last time so I didn’t have the protection of my jacket. My legs didn’t get cut up nearly as much as last time but my arms got f*kin shredded.
At the top the view wasn’t really that good. There was no clear area, but it was a nice day so I had a nap up there.
Since the last bit of the climb was the hardest I decided to take an alternate route down. It was a big mistake. I ended up at a small “cliff” and, being a dumb ass, decided to climb around it. About half way around I thought, “shit, if I fall now I’m screwed”, so after getting over the obstacle I was on, I went back into the bushes again.
On the way back I had a few tumbles, saw some goats and went over a rock scramble but eventually made it back to the ridge line I had come up on. I was back home from hiking in YuanQu by 1700.
Have you been hiking in Yuanqu, or any other remote place in China? We’d love to here about your experiences (or anything else you want to say) in the comments 😀 .